“Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time” Stephen Wright
Any Portuguese town looks like a bride’s finery – something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. – Mary McCarthy
August 23-24, 2019
Using old school maps we walk along the metro line in Matosinhos until we need to go away from it to find our hostel for the next two nights. (Actually, Randy and Joan read maps and I just follow.) We manage to wind around neighborhoods, a large hospital, and cross crazy traffic until Randy spies a tiny sign in front of the building – Oportocean Hostel.
A metro line stop is practically in our back yard, so off we go to the old section of Porto, to take advantage of a free Porto Walking Tour advertised. Look for the orange umbrella for a tour in English. The tour guide is fabulous, taking us all around the old city centre, along the Douro River, while pointing out interesting landmarks and sharing a tremendous amount of history for two full hours. This young lady will do very well in life and we make sure to tip her accordingly.
Shame on people that ditch a tour when it is almost over to avoid tipping. Rant over.
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
We bid farewell to Albergue Seminario Menor, Santiago, Spain and hike to the bus station to catch a bus back to Porto, Portugual. It’s kind of interesting to speed past towns and the path that took us fourteen days to walk.
Upon arrival in Porto we fire up Google Maps and proceed to locate Oporto Brothers Hostel. Intersections do pose to be a challenge when there are at least six or eight streets fanning out from the center, but with the help of locals, police and Google Maps we find our way to the correct neighborhood. Things begin to appear more run-down in this section of town… don’t think I’d want to wander too far in the dark around here. Google Maps says we have arrived, but we see nothing as to signage for our hostel. What to do? Start knocking on doors, I guess, until someone helps us. Yep, that works… we find the hostel name on a tiny hand written slip of paper taped to the doorbell.
Great accommodations at Oporto Brothers Hostel and serve our purposes well.
Tomorrow we’ll put one foot in front of the other and walk to the Porto cathedral to start our coastal section of Camino Portuguese. This may be a backwards approach to the camino, but it works for us. Make your own path, hike your own hike.
Sunday, August 19, 2018 | Albergue Cruces Inn to Santiago de Compostela, Spain | 21 K
Reservations have been made at Seminario Menor (school, seminary and pilgrim hostel) in Santiago so we allow ourselves time to enjoy breakfast and plan for a leisurely walking day with no worry of racing to score beds. Really? Truth is, we are pretty excited to arrive in Santiago so it seems we keep a steady pace throughout the day.
We enjoy random encounters with friends made along the trail along with interesting conversations with new friends on this final hiking day. This is accompanied with a twinge of sadness knowing, most likely, we will never see them again. But, alas, this is the Camino. We experience a little piece of life together and move on. My hope is that they think of us as honest, decent, and kind human beings.
Thank you to all who took the time and energy to smile, laugh, converse and share experiences as we walked the same pilgrim path for this short while. Truly, the best thing about the Camino is the Camino.
I find joy in living day to day, not in the future.
August 17, 2018 | 26.5 kilometers | Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis
Apparently, we missed a huge celebration during the night and as we leave our hostel a little after 5 a.m. we find a young man slumped over a table. This larger facility has a security system, so this sleepy young man most likely found himself locked out of the building after partying. Oh well…
The groups of men huddled together near alleyways (especially near the ATM machine) bring our guard up a notch. Leaving town poses to be challenging in the dark, but friendly, young revelers help us out with directions to the river, so we find our way to cross the long bridge. An older gentleman on his early morning walk is also kind enough to give us a detailed city map and directions.
Why the early start? It appears no beds are available to reserve in our destination of Caldas de Reis, so we opt to race for the 50 beds at the Municipal Albergue. Excitement fills the air as we count out backpacks in line and discover we made the cut-off…46, 47, 48! The crowd of fellow pilgrims cheer along with us, Yay, Minnesota! We wait until the 1 p.m. opening and continue to stand in line as each pilgrim is slowly checked in. As we get closer to the building entrance we are able to chat with friends already checked in as they leave to shower at the city pool since the albergue showers are dirty. I overhear others leaving to go to the drug store to purchase bed bug spray. No big deal… at least it’s a bed and we’ll survive. We get within 4 people and discover they only have a total of 42 beds (per small hand written sign in door) and we are turned away.
Luckily, an assertive (Irishman that lives in Italy?) man with excellent Spanish speaking skills takes on the role of advocate for all of us waiting in line. The albergue employees say they can do nothing as there are no beds available in the whole town, so we all must start walking the 10 kilometers to the next town, (Even though it is now mid-afternoon.) Our spokesperson continues to argue and scolds them for not cutting off the line of pilgrims hours earlier to allow time for those of us without beds to walk on. He insists the community must attempt to accommodate this overflow of pilgrims and proceeds to call the police, churches and hospital to no avail. Not one to give up, he continues to plead his (our) case. Like a true Camino miracle, affordable beds a short walk away and just a few Euros more than the public albergue magically become available. Yes, the Camino provides…
Our Camino Angel advocate is still very upset with the municipal albergue and the unprepared, unresponsive community, so he continues walking down the road. I hope he finds a bed.
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
O Porrino to Cesantes, Spain
“You need special shoes for hiking—and a bit of a special soul as well.” ~Terri Guillemets
Sunday, August 12, 2018: Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes, Portugal | 20 kilometers
Oh, so tired today. Ponte de Lima festival included loud music from midnight to 3 a.m. this morning. The albergue balcony with open windows, due to the heat, allowed all of us in our section of beds to feel as though we were part of the fun and merriment. Style of music was not the lullaby kind and the tremendous fireworks show after was lengthy, as well. Thus, little sleep, but that’s o.k.
Warm temperatures today plus we climb the largest hill on Portuguese camino. By the looks of the photo above we tackled it like beasts! All rocky sections are compared to the Loch Lomond section along the West Highland Way and this was not as challenging.
Beautiful views, but we must hustle along as we hope to score beds (bottom bunks) in the 5 euro Albergue de Peregrinos in Rubiaes, Portugal.
Yeah!! We arrive in time… Our home tonight is an old school converted to an albergue filled with bunk beds, well supplied kitchen, large dining area and outside patio/laundry area complete with clothes lines strung across the sunny yard.
Albergue de Peregrinos is an old school converted to house Camino pilgrims with rooms filled with bunk beds, well supplied kitchen, large dining area and outside patio/laundry area complete with clothes lines strung across the sunny yard.
Chilling in the patio area outside, we meet a tall man from South Korea who has completed the whole Camino Frances from France to Finisterre, Spain and immediately started walking the Camino Portuguese backwards from the coast. His current unemployment status has given him time for this lengthy endeavor and by now he can cover a tremendous number of miles each day. While you may be tempted to look at this as a mid-life crisis situation, I would prefer to see it as an opportunity for personal growth. To each their own, right?
Short video featuring Camino Portuguese Day #7:
Friday, August 10, 2018: Will we walk 32 kilometers today?
After a festive evening listening to boy scouts singing folk songs, we rise at the early hour of 5 a.m. to tackle a long day of walking from Barcelos, Portugal. I appreciate the nice kitchen provided by the author of the Brierly Camino Guide and prepare coffee to help jump-start the day.
Inquiring minds will want to watch the video below… Joan, Randy & Joyce take on Camino Portuguese Day Five.
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. -Arther Ashe
August 9, 2018: Joan, Randy & Joyce take on Camino Portuguese Day #4 | 18 kilometers
A good day becomes great…the walk from Sao Pedro de Rates to Barcelos along the central route includes a photo opportunity with Elvis, the King of Rock & Roll.
As we enter the Barcelos town square we hear music and see the festivities. Is this their way of welcoming weary pilgrims? No, wait! It’s Thursday, the traditional market day, Feira de Barcelos. Why wait until the weekend?
Poor Tiina, our Finnish friend, is having ankle issues so came in later that day. Joan is the hero as she marks a bottom bunk ready for Tiina’s arrival at Albergue Cidade de Barcelos.
The grocery store is apparently having a sale on Bacalao, salted dried codfish. Reminds me of lutefisk with a better smell, consistency and taste.
Below is a short video of Camino Portuguese Day #4:
September 24, 2016: Camino Completion ~ third time’s a charm. Another dot is connected as we walk into Astorga, Spain.
Cruceiro Santo Toribio is a stone cross that commemorates the 5th century Bishop Toribio of Astorga who supposedly fell to his knees here in a final farewell having been banished from the town. Wonderful view of the city of Astorga with the mountains looming in the distance.This gentleman has welcome wagon duty today along with tending to the flowers and shrubs near the stone cross.Tonight we sleep in the loft of a very old building, Albergue de Peregrinos San Javier located on a narrow street near the cathedral. 110 beds and we are up three levels in the top loft area. As you can see, we both get a front and center bottom bunk tonight surrounded by our international roommates. Friendly conversations are a bonus to this situation and we experience absolutely no bedbugs. A full kitchen is on the bottom level of the building so we are able to cook our own meal tonight and converse with other pilgrims doing the same. Flashlights are close and ready for action in case we need to walk down the dark staircase during the night to a lower level to use the facilities. Watch to the end of the video on this blog post and you will take a walk with me from top to bottom of the albergue. I’m glad there wasn’t a fire during the night because we would surely have been toast.Inside these doors… Astorga’s cathedral was built between the 15th and 18th centuries and combines various styles including Gothic and Baroque.
The edifice was begun in 1471, within the same walls of its Romanesque predecessors from the 11th-13th centuries. Construction lasted until the 18th century which explains the inclusion of elements from later styles. ~Wikipedia
Is Harry Potter home? Opposite the cathedral is the Palcio Episcopal designed by Anton Gaudi for the bishop of the time who was a fellow Catalan. The palace’s bizarre appearance and enormous cost horrified the church and no future bishops ever lived in it. It is now home to the Museo de los Caminos, an excellent museum of the pilgrimage to Santiago. ~spainthisway.com
We were not able to visit Museo Chocolate also located in Astorga, Spain. Here you can see a display of tools and objects that represent the history of chocolate production: instruments for roasting, refining and rolling, as well as pans, mortars, moulds and machines from the early 19th century.
Top three photo picks of the day: